First-Person Report of Suffrage Centennial Parade in Washington, DC

Posted by on Jun 17, 2013 in Homepage, News | Comments Off

NiceBackby Olivia Twine

The day before the 100th anniversary of the 1913 suffrage parade at the White House, there were moments when I thought I must be the only person who showed up. But this impression was dispelled the next morning as I worked through stages of relief, wonder, joy and a spiritual connection with the courageous spirits of all the original suffrage activists.

Well over 1500 of us participated in a centennial parade honoring Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mathilda Joslyn Gage, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Inez Mulholland, and the tens of thousands of grassroots activists across the nation who put themselves on the line to win the right to vote.

Emerging from the Metro Sunday morning at the nation’s capitol, I spied the first of what would be thousands of energetic and vocal women wearing red jackets decorated with the logo of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. The sisters assembled from colleges and universities representing almost every state in America; some even came from England and Germany. Falling in step with them, I was swept up in a wave of  enthusiasm as everyone headed to the assembly park next to the Capitol.

Delta Sigma Theta was the sorority from Howard University whose nine student members joined Alice Paul and Lucy Burns in marching to the White House in 1913. By far, this organization outnumbered all the others at the 2013 centennial parade. Wave upon wave of state groups entered the parade route with shouts and calls of joy and determination. The sorority also produced the opening and closing ceremonies.

Many other organizations were in attendance last as well, including Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, Women Unite, National Women’s History Project, League of Women Voters, the DAR, Alice Paul Institute, Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, AAUW, the National Press Club, the Smithsonian, and other organizations and institutions. Women and young girls in costume carried banners expressing gratitude for their suffragist forebears and their own determination to continue the still-demanding effort.

‘THANK YOU, GRANDMAMA” FOR YOUR HARD WORK

I met a pair of second cousins who were the granddaughter (Marguerite Morris Jaster) and great-granddaughter (Mary Pinckney) of suffragist Mary Wadley Morris, a founder of the League of Women Voters. Proudly pinned to their backs was a large photograph of their ancestor, one inscribed, “Thank You, Grandmama!” Marguerite Jaster lives in the Washington area, while Mary traveled from California for the centennial festivities and weekend events.

Red

The closing ceremony near the Washington Monument included a reenactment of the original nine marchers Delta Sigma Theta students looking beautiful in graceful Edwardian attire. A stirring call from representative Marsha Fudge, chair of the National Democratic Black Congressional Caucus, followed and she urged women to continue the ongoing struggle for voting rights and gender equality.

Representative Fudge discussed the case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court in which Shelby County, Alabama has asked the high court to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which she described as “the heart of efforts to protect minority voting rights from a constantly expanding series of suppressive tactics.” She told the crowd: “This parade is more than a celebration of the past. It’s a demonstration of our commitment to continue the ongoing fight to secure equal rights for everyone.”